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Nick was sitting in the bleachers wearing his Dolphins football jersey and jeans; not matching anyone’s green and white attire. Humidity was drowning him with every breath, as he watched as a group of girls walked by in sports bras and “Go Bulldogs” or “Mel Hi Football” painted on their stomachs. Claire was sitting next to him, saying how stupid all of them looked. Nick looked at Claire’s green and white face and thought about what a hypocrite she was being.
“Did you finish your history project?” she asked, changing the subject. Nick realized that the things he needed were still in his locker.
“Uh, I got to go get that.”
He hurried off the bleachers, almost tripping on the way down. He heard Claire laugh behind him. Nick glared back up at Claire, only making her laugh harder.
A couple feet away, Nick noticed Lindsay, one of his few friends that didn’t annoy him; unlike Claire.
Nick’s lips curled into a smile as he tip toed behind Lindsay, tapped her right shoulder and thrust his body to the left if her. Lindsay automatically turned to the left saying “Hey Nick” before she actually saw him.
Nick chuckled and started walking away.
“Wait, where are you going?” Lindsay called after him.
“I got to go grab something from my locker.”
Lindsay nodded and returned to her previous conversation.
Nick’s eyes had trouble adjusting from the blinding lights of the football stadium to the shadowy darkness of the school’s courtyard, so he doubted whether or not he just saw a person disappear behind the Liberty Bell statue, marking the center of the courtyard. Nick’s mind left the contents of his locker to the examination of the statue. Nick squinted at the pedestal the bell was on, occasionally tapping on the letters imprinted on the side. Just as he was about to give up the idea that he even saw someone at all, he felt a hand, heavy on his shoulder. Nick didn’t like being startled and tried pulling away but the hand had a grip on his shirt, and in his struggle he slammed his head against the statue…everything got blurry.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a familiar girl’s voice said through the darkness.
Nick clutched his head in pain, but pulled his face closer to hers and realized that it was Paige; a girl who was in a few of his classes.
“Did you see anything?” Paige asked fiercely.
“What? No.” Nick said taken off guard.
Paige shoved his shoulder away while letting go of his shirt.
“Nick, I thought you were going to your locker” Lindsay said cutting through the tension.
Nick spun around and saw Lindsay eyeing the two of them suspiciously as she sauntered toward them.
“Oh hey Paige” she added.
“Hey” Paige said sweetly and smiled at Lindsay.
Nick gave Paige a weird look.
After a few seconds of silence, Paige looked at her cell phone as if she had just received a text message and said “Oh, my dad’s here. I’ll see you guys on Monday.”
Nick and Lindsay said their byes in unison. Then they started walking to Nick’s locker.
“Is Paige Bi-polar?” Nick blurted out.
Lindsay laughed and Nick gave her a serious stare.
“Why would you think that?” Lindsay asked.
“I saw her sneaking around and then she’s all like grr to me and you came and she’s not anymore…”
“Nick, what are you talking about?” Lindsay asked cutting him off.
Nick sighed, “Don’t worry about it.”
Throughout the next week, Nick couldn’t help but watch Paige’s every move. He tried to figure out what she was hiding. Paige’s pale blue eyes didn’t reveal anything, no matter how long he stared at them. She acted like everyone else, but Nick did notice that she was always the first one to leave history class unlike her other classes where she usually lingered with her friends.
The next day, Nick was sure to be right behind Paige as she left the history class. But in his haste, Nick knocked one of his classmate’s binders out of her hands and when he tried picking it up, he dropped one of his own books. By the time he scrambled out of the classroom, he caught a glimpse of Paige’s bright Vera Bradley backpack just before the elevator door slid shut.
‘Why does she have an elevator key?’ Nick thought to himself and looked down at the brace around his ankle, ‘I need it more then she does.’
Nick made a plan to rush down the stairs and try to meet her at the bottom of the elevator. As he began his descend down the stairs, he couldn’t help but notice the same brightly colored brown and pink backpack coming from behind the Liberty Bell statue.
“How can she be there already?!?” he exclaimed aloud.
Nick didn’t realize that Lindsay was now right beside him and she raised her eyebrow at his random exclamation. Nick could tell that Lindsay was concerned about his strange behavior this week, so he tried to explain that Paige was just on the elevator and now she was halfway across the school.
“Um, I don’t see her” Lindsay slowly responded.
Nick looked and saw that Paige had just disappeared in a group of people who had just come out of building one.
Nick grumbled out of frustration, and quickly hopped down the stairs being careful not to re-injure his football induced ankle sprain. Nick walked over to the bell, squatted in front of it, and studied every detail. He knocked on the statue looking for hollow spots. RING…the warning bell went off… Nick didn’t move. Maybe Paige was hiding something in a secret compartment in the bell. Ding… Dong … class had started. Nick knew he wouldn’t be able to focus in his class anyway knowing there was something special about that bell. He was a little afraid however that he would be caught by the dean skipping class. How was he going to explain the reason for studying a stupid bell that possessed his thoughts?
Nick leaned against the statue formulating a believable excuse, when suddenly the side of the pedestal slid down and Nick fell inside.
“Well that was graceful.” A voice chuckled at him.
“Teddy?” Nick asked recognizing his middle school friend.
“That’s the name.”
Nick jumped up to his feet to find that he was in a dark tunnel, dimly lit by what looked like one watt light bulbs.
“Where are we?”
Teddy read Nick’s confused expression and with a huge grin on his face, he tried to explain. Nick could tell that he was dying to tell his story.
“You know how old this school is, right?”
“Well its old… really old and some 80 years ago a group of seniors wanted to set off fireworks. Like explode the bell and everything.” He paused for dramatic effect and then added, “I know it’s pretty sick…right?”
“Anyway, they had to dig tunnels to get the fireworks where they need to go...”
Nick cut him off, “That seems like a lot of work just for a senior prank.”
“Oh, but it was much more than that. They created a society. a...a.” he couldn’t think of the right words. “I don’t know. But we have something great here. It’s a whole different world”
Nick doubted that tunnels where like a different world, but he had to admit that it was pretty cool that they were there. Suddenly…Nick jumped at the sound of Teddy’s watch alarm going off.
“Oh I better get back to class,” Teddy said while dangling the bathroom pass from his hand. “Dude, but seriously check out the rooms and stuff. Catch ya later”
“How are you going to get out of here?”
“Elevator of course,” Teddy responded as he turned and ran down the passageway…soon Nick could no longer hear his footfalls.
Nick was very satisfied with himself. He wasn’t crazy. He knew something was weird about this bell and the elevators.
Nick roamed aimlessly through the intricate tunnels soon finding room after room. What was strange about these rooms was that they affected his emotions. He walked into a bright yellow one; the ceiling was a giant mosaic sun that warmed his skin. He could feel happiness flow through his veins. While he was in there, he couldn’t stop smiling…no matter how hard he tried.
He was so taken back by the expansion of the happy room, he walked right into pain without a second thought. It was a cold blank concrete room. His first step into the room felt like there was broken glass in his shoe. He stumbled into the room and ran into a wall. It felt like a truck had hit him. He screamed and slammed his eyes shut. He was sure that his eyelids just ripped off the top layer of his eye. He moved back toward the door and his legs moved feeling like he had a torn ligament or a broken bone. His tears burned like acid on his cheeks. He put his hand on the doorknob that felt like it was covered in needles, and escaped that hell.
Each room in the tunnel had a different emotion etched in the old wood. Then Nick walked in the next room and wondered what sort of emotional rollercoaster he would go on in this room because this door’s sign was not legible…nothing could be worse then pain.
It was a pale blue room with a white shag rug covered in fluffy pillows. He was drawn to it and laid down. Comfort embraced him like a hug. He noticed that hanging from the ceiling were glass orbs that looked like bubbles and crystals that reflected light casting thousands of little rainbows around the room. He could have sworn that he started hearing a quiet melody. It sounded as if it was coming from a music box. His eyes got heavy and he involuntarily closed them and drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
Nick woke up to the same color blue. But it wasn’t a room. It was Paige’s eyes.
“Oh my gosh, Nick are you ok?” Paige asked, very concerned.
Nick tried to sit up but got dizzy and lay back down.
“You hit your head and passed out on me.”
Nick refused to believe that everything he had just seen was a hallucination. Nick was smarter than that. He knew that Paige was trying to get him to believe that everything was a dream so she could have that world all to herself.
“No, I didn’t…I was just in that room,” stammered Nick.
Paige looked concern, “What room?”
Nick sat up and slammed his fists against the side of the statue trying to open the door. He started yelling and slammed his fists against the statue again and again.
Paige called for help.